Steve Jobs has posted an open letter entitled "Thoughts on Music" on the Apple website and, in doing so, joins Yahoo! Music in calling upon the major record labels to abandon DRM for online music sales. He rightly points out that while 90% of music sales are on CD's without DRM, the growth of online music sales is inhibited by the saddling of electronically distributes music with consumer unfriendly DRM. In his open letter Steve discusses the status quo, the problems associated with licensing its "FairPlay" DRM system and, ultimately, concludes that DRM-free music sales is the best way forward.
Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.
Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.
Podcast Episode 73 Transcript Episode 73 of Steve Gibson'sSecurity Now podcast with Leo LaPorte has a terrific primer on the intertwined history of advancements in technology making it easier for consumers to copy content, fair use, the lobbying efforts by the content industry that resulted in U.S. copyright law amendments up to and including the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty, the DMCA implementing the treaty, and the detrimental effects these new laws have on consumer fair use rights.
A French court ruled that Sony's tying sales of music to a single type of portable music player, breached French law forbidding such "linked sales". The Court also ruled that Sony mislead its customers by not making it clear on its portable music player packaging that it could only play music downloaded from Sony's own Connect music store.
Importantly, the court did not go so far as to forbid the use of DRM, however.
Sony was ordered to: (i) pay a fine of 10,000 euros ($13,000); (ii) henceforth state on its music-player packaging that the product only play songs downloaded from Sony's own Connect music store; and (iii) publish the information on its French website homepage.
From the Thomas Slattery case back in January of 2005 till now there have been several lawsuits brought against Apple alleging Apple's use of proprietary DRM schemes limiting music purchased from iTunes to playing back only on portable devices manufactured by Apple as anti-competitive.
A U.S. District court recently denied Apple's motion to dismiss the Tucker v. Apple case (filed in July 2006) similarly alleging, among other things, that:
Apple has engaged in tying and monopolizing behavior, placing unneeded and unjustifiable technological restrictions on its most popular products in an effort to restrict consumer choice and restrain what little remains of its competition in the digital music markets.
In denying Apple's request, U.S. District Court James concluded,
"the existence of valid business reasons in antitrust cases is generally a question of fact not appropriate for resolution at the motion to dismiss stage.
Melanie Tucker is seeking class status, wants Apple to be enjoined from tieing music bought on iTunes to iPods as the only possible portable playback device for such music plus unspecified damages for all persons that purchased music from iTunes since April of 2004.
The name seems daft, but this Windows Media Player ("WMP") 11 plug-in seems promising. I've long been a WMP fan. I only use iTunes because it was the only reasonable way to manage music on my iPod – until now. Microsoft chose, once again, not to provide iPod support in its latest version of WMP. To the rescue comes MGTEK with DOPISP. DOPISP is a plug-in for WMP that enables you to sync your MP3 music to your iPod directly from within Windows Media Player.
A free two month trial is available here. No word yet on final pricing. Of course it cannot manage any DRM'd AAC files purchased from iTunes. If it could, my work here would be done! Well, at least until Apple and/or the RIAA sued them! 🙂
I haven't tried it yet, but one possible downside to this approach to managing your iPod is that it likely won't support podcasts. For some reason that only the God's know, Windows Media Player does notinclude podcast support. Since I discovered podcasts in October of 2005, I use my iPod primarily for podcast listening while on the road. Without podcast functionality, I'm not ready to head back to WMP!
Text of Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 Australia is set to amend its copyright laws to finally make it legal for consumers to record TV shows and to copy music they own on CDs onto their iPods and other portable music devices. Such copying is now illegal under Australian and British copyright law. The Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 passed through both houses of Parliament and most of it will become law by January 1. According to theage.com.au:
"It will legalise format shifting of materials such as music, newspapers, books, meaning that people can put their CD collection onto iPods or mp3 players."
But, and this is a big but, it will be illegal/infringing to breach a technological protection measure (TPM) to copy or format shift content you own. This pretty much nullifies the importance of this amendment beyond the CD format as virtually all content will be locked down with TPMs/DRM going forward. Too bad.
Importantly, the Australian Attorney General makes it clear in this FAQ that building up a library of programs recorded from TV broadcasts for a permanent archive is not permitted. I have argued for years that permanent archiving of TV shows (whether on VHS cassette tapes or TiVo) constitutes copyright infringement under U.S. and Canadian copyright law. Few have wanted to believe me. Well, the question is answered with clarity in the Australian context at least!
And one more thing, the bill makes it legal to sing "Happy Birthday" in public – an act which was also previously illegal in Australia! 🙂
Dale's Comment: While the CD-to-iPod amendment is a nice short term measure, the bill, overall, is anti-consumer in the long run. Australian's have a one-time get out of jail free card. If the past is any indication of the future, the prohibition against breaching TPMs for content owned by the consumer will be completely ignored by most consumers as it is patently unfair to preclude the purchaser of content from using it/reading it/accessing it on any device of their choosing. Hence, the law is set up to fail from the start – just as the previous prohibitions against copying failed to stop consumers from copying their music onto iPods.
Text of Report
The UK think-tank, Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) has released a study, “Public Innovation: Intellectual Property in a Digital Age” where, among many other things, it recommends that U.K. citizens should have the right to copy their own content for their own personal use – something currently prohibited in the U.K. It concludes:
…in seeking to limit pirate activity, emphasis should be on commercial harm to the rights-holder, rather than the act of sharing itself. As such, we recommend UK law be amended to include a private right to copy. Again, this will serve to increase legitimacy of the IP regime by legalizing actions that thousands of individuals already undertake without significant harm to the rights-holder.
The BPI had come to the same conclusion earlier this year. As it stands now millions of U.K. citizens are breaking the law when copying their purchased DVDs or CDs onto their computers and iPods or creating compilation tapes of their own music. The existing law is silly. Kay Withers, one of the report’s authors, said:
The idea of all-rights reserved doesn’t make sense for the digital era and it doesn’t make sense to have a law that everyone breaks. To give the IP regime legitimacy it must command public respect.
In the U.S. personal copying for private use is enshrined in law as part of their fair use doctrine. In exchange for paying levies on blank media, the private copying exemption contained in section 80(1) of the Copyright Act makes it legal for Canadians to reproduce musical works for private use.
As Michael Geist and others have recommended, Canada and Britain should explicitly make copying of purchased content of any type (audio, video, text) for private use legal – without a media levy and without penalties for circumventing DRM/TPMs to do so. Any click wrap/shrink wrap or other end-user license terms to the contrary should be unenforcible.
The final watered-down law requires that Apple and others with proprietary music DRM formats merely respond to competitive requests for information necessary to make their products compatible with proprietary formats – at the expense of the company requesting interoperability. This is very different from the original proposed law that would have permitted consumers to break the proprietary DRM if Apple (or others) did not permit/work with competitors to develop interoperable products.
The leading German newspaper Der Spiegel claims to have information on an unofficial agreement struck between the movie studios, Sony, Microsoft and others which will see HDCP, and the Image Constraint Token (ICT), being consigned to the scrap heap for at least four years. This move would mean that all movie content produced until 2010 at the earliest, and possibly as far as 2012, will not carry the ICT – a security feature which restricts/down-rez’s high-definition playback only to equipment with HDMI ports and HDCP encryption. Sources:ars technica | GameIndustry.biz | Daily Tech | Next Generation | IGN | Gamasutra | Xbit | Joystiq | Engadget | Der Spiegel (Google’s English Translation) Dale’s Comment: This is a remarkable development if true. I have been participating in online forums for years where this has been a major subject of contention for early HDTV adopters. With the constant delays of HD-DVD and Blu-ray and the many competing HD standards appearing on the horizon, this may spell the demise of HD down-rezzing and the ICT. Recently, Professor Ed Felton suggested that HDCP is Eminently Crackable. All this said, since main-stream press has not yet picked this up, I question its veracity. But, its fun speculation in the meantime.
Update: October 15 2006: Save for one or two titles, the first couple hundred Blu-Ray and HD-DVD releases have been released without HDCP/ICT activated. Related Posts:
“The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that “threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives.” They argue that if it becomes legal to break DRM that could kill you that it might harm their business.” Source:Freedom to Tinker | The Register
The new law, now set for a vote on Tuesday, would allow consumers to circumvent software that protects copyrighted material–known as digital rights management (DRM)–if it is done to convert digital content from one format to another. Such circumvention is currently illegal in much of the world.
Disney film studios has been using Macrovision’s RipGuard technology for preventing DVD copying. Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.are waiting to see how effective it is. This is another example of the ongoing saga of Hollywood studios trying to figure out how to protect DVDs from piracy.
Legal options in digital entertainment are growing. But they come with restrictions that can hobble your ability to enjoy the content you’ve paid for–and even threaten your control over your system. Source:PC World
[At CES] … we often got is the word “can’t” applied to the things we really wanted to legally do. If we wanted to put our DVD into a storage device and manage them like we do our music files, well there are a number of illegal ways to do that but no real legal ways today. If we wanted to take music we purchased from iTunes and listen to it on the leading home player the Sonos we can’t do that at all. If we wanted to take music we legally downloaded using a Microsoft “Plays for Sure” service and play it in every room in the house at the same time for a party, well we can’t do that either even if we use all Microsoft offerings.
Engadget asserts that the Sirius S50, which has a claimed 50 hours of audio storage and scheduled digital recordings, has been cut down in the prime of life by an overbearing RIAA that has limited the player to 20 scheduled recordings, each a maximum length of two hours. Sources:Engadget | Mobile Mag
Based on a recently secured Sony patent, there has been much speculation that Sony would use DRM technology to make PS3 games playable on only one console – thus eliminating game rentals as a possibility. Today Sony officially denied this.
Sony is criticized for including root-kit software as part of its CD copy protection. Root kit software is installed on your computer without your knowledge. Root-kit software often causes system problems. No tools to uninstall are provided by Sony. RootkitRevealer can be used to detect and remove it Sources:Washington Post | The Inquirer | Security Now Podcast